|Finance Minister Bill Morneau|
While federal and provincial finance ministers agreed on the weekend to make corporate ownership information — often referred to as “beneficial ownership” — available to law enforcement and tax authorities, there’s no plan to give the public access to the records.
“Just requiring corporations to have the information on hand is not good enough,” says James Cohen, director of policy and programs for Transparency International Canada. “We’d strongly urge the government to consider the benefits of a public registry of beneficial owners . . . because (law enforcement agencies) are already stretched thin.”
A public registry would provide “an extra set of eyes, such as civil society and investigative journalists, to review the information,” he said.
Buried in an announcement Monday, federal and provincial finance ministers acknowledged “blind spots” in Canada’s corporate registry system and said the new measures are intended to “prevent webs of Canadian or international companies from concealing ownership information in order to facilitate tax evasion, money laundering and other criminal activities.”
The announcement says federal and provincial finance ministers are committed to “further strengthening corporate transparency . . . The information revealed through the recent leaks of the Panama and Paradise Papers reinforces the need for action.”
But it makes no reference to corporate transparency being shared with the public.
In Canada, secrecy around corporate ownership makes it possible to register a corporation, open a bank account, and send and receive money overseas all without disclosing one’s name — the same kind of secrecy offered by traditional tax havens. (more...)
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